new house?

we may have found a new house? i took ramona to the park yesterday for playgroup & i detoured through east lawrence on the way home to scout for rental signs. (i don’t usually walk through east lawrence because the sidewalks are old & overgrown, making it difficult to push a stroller. the sidewalks downtown are much smoother & easier for us.) i spotted a place at 11th & rhode island, about three blocks from our current place. i called the number & was pleased to hear that it was an entire house (no sharing walls with someone who might prove to be disruptive to or disrupted by a baby), with a third bedroom that jared could use as a home office, wood floors, washer & dryer–you know, all the basic things we would prefer in a rental. i was sad to hear that the rent was over $1000 a month. we pay far below market-rent right now & we knew we’d have to pay more for more space, especially if we wanted to stay in east lawrence, rather than moving to some cookie cutter town home in west lawrence, far away from parks, playgrounds, shops, etc. but it’s scary to think about paying that much rent. our last apartment in boston was only $1000 a month. in BOSTON. granted, that was six years ago. but still.

but the guy was very friendly & he got excited when i mentioned that jared is a PhD student in the history department. turns out he is acquainted with some of the professors. he was also excited when i said we were from boston. apparently he has family there. so i made an appointment to come check things out after ramona’s nap.

we’ve seen a few places in the last week, all two-bedrooms. mostly they are as small or even smaller than our current house, because our house has an unusually large living room & a very smart layout without a lot of wasted space. we need space in common areas for our kitchen table (we eat dinner with ramona every night as a family–it’s just something we value as a family goal, so we need room for all of us to sit at the table together), our desks, our immense quantity of books, my sewing table, & space for baby play. all the places we’ve seen so far are duplexes, so we’d have neighbors sharing a wall or floor, with small kitchen that cannot accommodate a table, & average-sized living rooms that are unlikely to fit all of our heavily-used furniture.

i started feeling kind of silly. like, of course the average two-bedroom apartment is probably not going to be able to accommodate two desks, a giant eight-foot sewing table, a few thousand books, & a large solid wood dining table. right? plus a baby. even a baby that doesn’t have as much stuff as the average american baby. (we do try to be minimalist.) we started to realize that if we wanted room for all that stuff, & a private bedroom for ramona, & especially if we wanted to stay in east lawrence, we were going to have to be prepared to spend a little more money.

so i checked this place out &…it’s pretty nice! it’s a whole house, with two large bedrooms upstairs, plus a small room that jared could use as an office. (he’s teaching environmental studies next year & won’t have as large of an office at school–which is saying something because his current office space is literally a windowless 10×10 room that he shares with two other grad students.) there’s more than enough space downstairs for my desk, sewing table, kitchen table, & ramona’s toys & books. it has literally everything we need/want except for a bathtub. which is kind of sobering. i’m not sure how to wash a young toddler without a bathtub. but that, & the extra cost of rent, are the only negatives.

jared asked if we were in a “low rent trap,” where our rent is so low that we can’t imagine moving, even if we know moving would be a enormously positive thing overall. i don’t think we’re in a “trap,” because our current house is pretty great. i don’t feel trapped here. but ramona did get that questionable lead test, we know our house was never deleaded, we know we have chipping paint on our windowsills…if this house is giving ramona some kind of lead poisoning, obviously we have to move. & the new place we saw has solid oak windowsills/door jambs that are not painted.

i keep wishing i could just get a magic 8 ball to make this decision for us. i keep oscillating between, “yes! we’ll take it! wahoo!” & “oh my god, that is so much rent.” even though the landlord was like, “i really want to rent to you. what can you afford? i’m willing to come down in price because i would love to have your family as my tenants.” he even canceled the other showings he had this weekend to wait for us to get our application in on monday.

the other piece that makes this stressful is that my social security is STILL being reviewed. i don’t know if i ever wrote about that? i’ve been on disability since 2002. people on disability get reviewed every few years so social security can make sure they’re still disabled & everything. i was reviewed in 2004 & 2008 & in february i got a letter saying i’m being reviewed again. it seems like every review process is a little bit different. it’s never been the same for me twice. this time, i had to fill out a really long questionnaire about my daily routine & the different ways my disabilities affect my life. my doctor & therapist also had to send in some paperwork about my condition, & i listed jared as my “personal contact that is knowledgeable about my condition,” so he had to fill out a long questionnaire as well.

social security called the other day with a lot of questions about my arthritis & said i would have to go in for a physical exam. with a doctor of their choice. i think these are called consultative exams? i’ve never had to do this before, since i have my own doctors that have always been willing to tell social security about my situation & treatment. but i guess that wasn’t good enough this time?

it’s nerveracking to think about seeing a new doctor, & especially a doctor that potentially holds so much power to decide about the very substance of my future. & i have heard that sometimes these doctors seem to be determined to look at every disability case as a fraud situation. since my physical issues all revolve around pain, for which there is no test or objective measurement, it’s always a little scary for me to talk to them about it. i always feel like my doctors are going to think i’m trying to con them into an oxycontin prescription or something.

the kind of funny (not really) thing about it is that my pain has been especially terrible lately. i think because the seasons are changing? it’s always worse then. i held ramona a lot more than usual yesterday because we spent so much time at that rental house & it had stairs so there was no sense confining her to her stroller & lugging it up & down the stairs. by the time we got home, i was wrecked. i could barely walk because my hips were so jacked up. i had a really hard time sleeping because my back was hurting so much, & there’s something really weird going on with my hands. when i was pregnant, my hands got so puffy that i could barely use them, & they’ve been like that again for the last few months (even though i am definitely not pregnant). not sure if it’s an arthritis thing or what.

anyway. thrilling, i know! all of my reader(s) are undoubtedly on the edge of their seats. long story short: it’s especially terrifying to consider moving into a much more expensive house when my sole source of income could conceivably get pulled out from under me. we definitely rely on that money, & with all my physical issues, crippling anxiety, lack of formal education, & 17-month-old, i have no idea what i could possibly do to replace it if i had to. people are almost never kicked off disability once they’ve been approved (save for the rare cause of obvious fraud or when someone was originally approved for a disability that has clearly been cured, like a broken leg or something), but you know. it could happen. i just try not to think about it too much, since it’s really not my decision to make. (thank you, years of practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy!)

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

6 thoughts on “new house?

  1. I dunno if I’ve ever commented, I’ve been reading for a few years at least. I’m disabled and fairly young too (35, chronic migraines, sup?) and your tales of making a baby while on disability really surprised me at first because I come from people who think that living off my disability payments makes me a mooch and that should disqualify me from being a mother. Shitty, right? And then, even after I get my brain past that ingrained bullshit, your whole last paragraph is another layer of anxiety around it, what if they take away my payments for some rando reason?!? I want kids (or maybe just A kid), so I’ve been trying to sort out my legit feelings from irrational anxiety from family baggage from realistic expectations and I just wanted to let you know that your talking about this stuff publicly has been really helpful for me. No one talks about having kids on disability unless it’s to say how terrible we moochers are for mooching.

    Have you dealt with this attitude? If I do get pregnant, I have no idea what to say to the haters besides fuck off, which works, I guess, but wouldn’t go over great at family parties.

    1. i guess you have commented before because your comment was already approved (as is the case with people i’ve approved before).

      i’m not super-tight with my family, & as far as i know, they are pretty supportive of the disability situation, so i don’t have to deal with that from people i can’t avoid, really. i have occasionally had issues with friends. i’m sure you’re familiar with the type of comments one gets on this topic: “well, sometimes i get headaches/feel depressed/whatever too. why should you be on disability when i’m not?” or remarks on how i manage my money or what-have-you.

      i HATE having these types of conversations (or even the more innocuous remarks, like, “what do you do all day if you don’t have a job?”) & having heard them so often, i actually do have this weird level of shame about it. like, part of what makes a review so hard on me is that people routinely make me feel like i’m lying or mooching when they learn i’m on disability, so i always feel like i have to “prove” that i have real issues, & then when i get reviewed…well, i really do have to prove it. & of course my preference would be to just handle it instead of dwelling on all the ways it impacts my life, which inevitably leads me down the primrose path to wondering what sort of life i might have if i didn’t have these issues…& then dealing with the weird internalized judgments that are so fucked up, like, “well, maybe if you lost some weight, you wouldn’t have so many pain issues,” or, “other people have bigger problems than yours & they don’t get all anxious & depressed. get over it.” ugh.

      it gets to the point that i don’t tell new people i’m on disability at all if i can help it. having a baby actually helps with that, sort of, because i can just tell people i’m a stay-at-home mom & they accept it. of course, if they ask what i did for work before i had a kid or express astonishment that i can stay home with ramona & be supported by my partner’s TA salary, i have to come clean. & that creates a new platter of questions regarding how my disabilities affect my ability to parent–particularly to be the primary caretaker.

      & then i start thinking about how my disabilities affect my parenting & that bums me out. i can’t hold ramona as much as i would like. i had wanted to do baby-wearing as part of attachment parenting, but by the time she was 12 pounds, she was just too heavy for me. i feel jealous of other parents at the playground (including jared) who have so much more energy & stamina for playing with their kids at the playground. i think i’m a pretty good parent & everything, but there is an impact, for sure. & i wonder if having a kid is part of what triggered this latest review. i mean, if you can take care of a baby all day, what’s stopping you from holding down a job? it’s not like parenting is somehow easier than working. & i don’t really know what to say to that other than to point out that i do have days where i lay on the couch a lot & let ramona make giant messes because i don’t have the energy or i have too much pain to do anything else. & that jared picks up a pretty tremendous amount of slack when he’s not at work.

      i don’t know! there are no easy answers for these questions. i wish we lived in a world where people with disabilities & chronic health problems were treated like adults who have some ability to manage their conditions & make choices about their capabilities, & people respected that we have as much a right to parent as anyone else. & where people understood that these programs exist to support people in need & that it’s not a moral failing to avail oneself of them.

  2. The new house sounds awesome! I hope that it works out for you. 😀

    Fingers crossed on the review. I am lucky enough to be mostly ignorant of how the system works (except to know that it doesn’t work particularly well for all of the people who really need it). I know you said that most people who get disability don’t lose it…. are the numbers roughly similar for people who go through the review process? For your sake, I sure hope so. 🙂

    I want to apologize for ham-handedly asking what you do in Lawrence when we met a couple years ago. It was super awkward (totally my fault). I was just curious, because it seemed like you were pretty punk rock for a person living in Kansas, and I was curious about how that was for you. But I worded it super shitty, and I still feel bad. :\

    1. we’re planning to talk to our current landlady later today about the lead paint on our windowsills. i don’t think she can do anything about it without a lot of expense & at least temporarily making the situation worse (because the lead paint would have the be scraped off & would fill the house with lead dust), so i suspect we will have to move. it’s still terrifying to think about spending that much in rent though, & if she has some genius solution for us (trading houses? haha), maybe we will stay? i don’t know!

      it’s FAR more unusual to be kicked off disability after a review than it is to simply be denied in the first place. & since i’ve been reviewed twice before without losing benefits, i think my chances are good that the same thing will happen this time. but i’ve never been asked to do the exam before & that is scary. still, at least 95% of reviews result in a continuation of benefits. & my condition is still just as bad as it ever was. people are only kicked off for 1) fraud, 2) earning more money than they are allowed to under social security’s rules, & 3) their condition has improved to the point that they are able to work gainfully. none of those conditions apply to me, so…it would be a shock to lose benefits. it just sucks that it’s still in limbo. i won’t rest easy until it’s settled.

      it’s okay about the awkward questioning. i don’t really remember exactly what was said or how it was phrased, but it’s probably nothing i’ve never been asked ten million times before. for the record, if you must be punk rock & living in kansas, lawrence is an ideal place to do it (or kansas city). it’s a very lefty, liberal, countercultural town. moreso than boston, i’d say.

  3. Can you use a chemical paint stripper instead of scraping off the paint? Might help keep the dust out of the air.

    1. the handyman just painted over everything without taking the old paint off. far from a perfect fix, but at least the exposed lead paint is covered up now.

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